Updated November 28, 2020
Everyone has an opinion about what makes a great obedience class. I’ve got a lot to say on the subject, but I’ll start here: obedience has nothing to do with it!
The evidence is clear and consistent. When measured by results, reward-based training outperforms more ‘traditional’ methods. It’s also much less likely to cause pain or anxiety.
That’s why this article is going to help you tell the difference. By the end, you should be able to choose the right class for your dog. I will go through some clues you can use, and then use an example of two very real classes.
We are going to use any published information that the classes themselves create, whether printed, on a Facebook page., but especially on a website.
Good Dog Training
You should see at least one of the following statements:
- Force free
- No coercion
- Only positive reinforcement methods used
If rules are published, they should ban prong, choker or check chains.
If you can’t find any mention of the terms above, it’s usually a bad sign. However, I will go so far as using my favourite Google hack to be certain (see below).
What shouldn’t be said? Except to debunk them, there should be no use of these words:
- pack leader
- balanced (often used as a euphemism)
All these words could betray a poor understanding of how dogs think and behave.
If a school is recommended by another reputable individual or organisation that’s a bonus. Examples might be the RSPCA or members of the Delta Society or the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Australia. Unfortunately, vets will often recommend all the classes in an area so just for once we are not always the best source.
A Real Life Example
Let’s say that I live in the Illawarra region and I want a good dog training class. I come across these two:
The first one might be good, but makes no mention at all of training methods used. How do I know this? It’s time to explain the Google hack if you don’t already know it.
If a website doesn’t have a search function, Google has one of its own that’s easy to use. Just type site: in the search bar followed without a space by the web address that normally appears after WWW. Then type a space followed by your search word.
For example, I typed in:
No results. I then replaced the search word with all the other terms and got the same result – nothing.
The second one has the following comment on the homepage at the bottom: “Positive and reward based training methods are used”
When I then repeated the site search, I also found this page. If you look you will see there is a long paragraph on positive training methods and how they are applied.
Therefore, I would choose the Albion Park class on the basis of the evidence provided. Given all the good things they say, I can even forgive them for using the word obedience! After all, that’s what people may be searching for.
Please Note. Even though I might disagree with the methods of a dog training class, I respect them as dedicated individuals. Most of these classes are run by volunteers who only want the best for dogs and their owners so please do not criticise them further. I’m just trying to help you make the best choice, not victimise well-meaning people.
The information contained here on the two classes was accurate at the time of publishing. I do not promise that it will stay that way and in fact I hope that the class which I did not recommend has by now changed the information provided.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!
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